When Don sees the Sterlings outside his door and realizes what’s in store for him, he looks stricken. He has always hated birthdays; I gather from his post-party dialogue with Megan that he hated them even before he even took another man’s identity and had to maintain the fiction. Plus, he micromanages every interaction that personally interests him and ignores or resists what doesn’t, and he’s not in charge of this event. When he tells Megan later, “I don’t like being the center of attention,” Megan calls him out on what is, at best, a half-truth: Don loves being the center of attention when he’s running the room and overseeing every detail, but when others set the terms of engagement, he has to work to seem comfortable. Megan’s improvisation traps Don into pretending to enjoy an event that he actually despises. When she fires up the cocktail jazz-pop band she hired for the occasion and performs a slinky little song-and-dance number — covering the 1961 French version of Sophia Loren’s “Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo,” as performed by ye-ye girl Gillian Hill — he’s seated in a chair in the middle of the room. His placement and posture suggest a prisoner who’s about to be tortured. Megan’s unselfconscious abandon — and Jessica Paré’s slinky-innocent performance, which I suspect will be looked back on as the moment that made her a star — also confronts Don, and other characters, with another harsh fact of life: none of them are getting any younger, or hipper. In context of the generational changeover that was fast approaching — in a year, 1967’s Summer of Love would be the moment when the Baby Boomers decisively wrested control of pop culture from the World War II generation, and shook up political discourse as well — it’s a bombshell moment. Don has never looked as ancient and terrified as he looks when Megan sidles closer to him, putting on a show that’s as much a celebration of her own youth and sexiness as a present for her husband. Its subtext — not lost on anybody at the party — is, “Isn’t she adorable? Isn’t he lucky?”
Vulture, Matt Zoller Seitz: “Mad Men Recap: Dawn of an Old Age.”
Gillian Hills - “Zou bisou bisou” (1962 - Barclay).
Sophia Loren - “Zoo Be Zoo Be Zoo” (1961 - Odeon).